Defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will begin their 2021 NFL season by hosting Dallas Cowboys at the Raymond James Stadium after the new campaign’s fixtures were released.
For the first time since 1994 the Bucs, who saw off the Kansas City Chiefs in February’s Super Bowl LIV, have brought back all 22 winning starters, with Tom Brady looking to add an eighth ring to extend his record as the most successful player in NFL history.
He will come up against the returning Dak Prescott in the opening fixture, with the Cowboys quarterback scheduled to return from a serious ankle injury which resulted in his 2020 season ending in October. He will be hoping to provide a boost to the Cowboys as they look to improve on their underwhelming 6-10 campaign last season, with his new four-year deal worth $160m having gone some way to lifting the club.
Elsewhere in the opening week, Sam Darnold will face his former side the New York Jets after being traded to the Carolina Panthers in a revenge match that will see his successor Zach Wilson make his pro-debut. The Houston Texans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars as the 6ft 6in 21-year-old Trevor Lawrence makes his debut, while Carson Wentz faces the Seattle Mariners first up after signing for the Indianapolis Colts.
We will also see a repeat of last season’s thrilling 22-17 Divisional Round clash as the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cleveland Browns, while the Chicago Bears, likely led by first-round quarterback Justin Fields, travel to Los Angeles to face the Rams for the first Sunday Night Football of the season.
Further down the line there is a return to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for two games as the NFL International Series makes a comeback following a Covid-enforced hiatus in 2020.
Atlanta Falcons will host the New York Jets on 10 October, while the Jacksonville Jaguars will play the Miami Dolphins one week later as part of a campaign which will see the season being extended from 16 to 17 games for the first time ever.